Split Lectures, Split Results: When Offered Lecture Streaming, Many Stay Home

ANU has introduced a ‘split lecture’ format, where lectures are streamed to nearby rooms if a class is too large for a single lecture theatre. However, at least one of these courses has scrapped the streaming, because students didn’t turn up.

The number of large lecture theatres has dropped significantly after the closure of the Manning Clarke Centre. ANU has attempted to overcome this shortage in part through ‘split lectures’: a main lecture is recorded live and streamed to another location to accommodate the overflow of students. MATH1014, a first-year maths course which is compulsory for many students, is one such course to have trialled the format. Other split lecture courses include BIOL1004 and POLS1006.

The live-streaming of the lectures meant hiring a tutor during the lecture times to help students in the live-stream room. Scott Morrison, an associate professor at ANU’s Mathematical Sciences Institute, told Observer that in addition to hiring an extra tutor for MATH1014, “there was also a staff person from the IT Services there throughout the lecture managing the AV [audiovisual].”

However, streamed lecture theatres often saw little to no attendance. Observer visited both venues for MATH1014 and found the streamed venue – the Haydon Allen Tank – completely empty. Students were redirected to the in-person lecture in the Copland Theatre, which hadn’t filled, despite the excess student numbers. Lecturer Joan Licata said, “We’ve been able to fit everyone who attended in the main venue, so we recommend ending the streaming.” The 370 students of MATH1014 can now only attend the lecture in the 300-seat Copland Theatre, or watch online.

The ANU reaffirmed that all students will have live access to lectures: “Live streaming will continue to be offered in courses with large number of students” ANU said, explaining that “all students attending the MATH1014 lectures can be accommodated therefore live-streaming to an overflow venue is not needed.” There are no apparent plans to scrap streaming in BIOL1004 and POLS1006, which have experienced higher attendance at the streamed venue.

ANUSA was consulted when split-lectures were proposed, and contacted student bodies of other universities which used similar models in order to get feedback. ANUSA Vice-President Eleanor Kay said, “ANUSA is keen to ensure no changes are made to the detriment of students.” ANUSA advised students who have concern about the model or the changes to contact Kay through [email protected]